I live on the Gulf Coast of Central Florida, so the April 20, 2010, explosion of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig off the Texas coast, has particular meaning for me. Everyone in the world thinks fondly of the Gulf of Mexico, a most beautiful and well-loved body of water which is affectionately and literally cradled to the American bosom. What’s not to love about her? Tourists, fishermen, shrimpers, spongers, yachtsmen, ordinary boaters, windsurfers, para-gliders, shoreline residents, fish, birds, marine animals… all take her clean, warm beauty for granted; as we do all the waters of this planet, frankly.
Suddenly, something is not right! Suddenly, it’s as if the Earth has begun to bleed and no one can stop the hemorrhaging. The millions of barrels of oil that are relentlessly dispersed every moment now, into the entire Gulf are turning the water a rusty red… blood red… an ooze which has the capacity to remove all oxygen from the water molecules and kill every sea creature in its path. Then, those poor victims would contribute their own blood to the mix as they disintegrate into the poison that is now, mystifyingly, filling their beautiful universe. Unlike the humans, they have no idea what brought about this terror. They had no hand in its cause, but they are the first being asked to pay the price.
And we don’t even understand the enormous amount of methane that is bubbling out of the bowels of the planet. That could be another bomb waiting to explode in our faces.
For the first time that history recalls, we humans have created a frightening and dramatic pierce wound right into the body of our planet in a location that can’t be hidden from the rest of the world. Maybe the awfulness of an out-of-control oil well has happened elsewhere? Perhaps in the deserts of Saudi Arabia or in some Texas or Oklahoma plain. Kuwait had some pretty desperate news footage about unstopable burning gas plumes a few years ago. I, personally, have seen a Colorado mountainside that won’t hold snow in the winter time. It’s a coal mine, which caught fire a century ago and will burn until the lode runs out. but that all happens out of sight and underground.
Maybe landlocked disasters don’t attract as much attention. Maybe spilled oil just mucks up millions of other people’s acres, makes toxic marshes and eventually seeps underground again. I don’t know because I don’t read about it in the paper. Anyway, it’s “not in my back yard.” Sound familiar? NIMBY-ism, anyone?
Yesterday, I was thinking about the mess that IS forming up in my back yard swimming pool, the Gulf of Mexico. I was taking the image of a bleeding wound which no one can staunch, (so far), swirling out of an apparently bottomless supply of liquid gold. Oil is something that we humans actually consider to be among Earth’s most valuable resources. We have killed for it, fought wars over it, sold our souls to control it, and made unspeakable fortunes with it. We don’t like to face the inconvenient truth that oil controls us, as every drug will eventually control the addict dependent upon its ready supply. We want what we want, when we want it. And we don’t want to think too deeply about it as long as we can get our fix.
But we cannot bear our drug of choice to suddenly overwhelm us, by embarrassingly insisting upon filling a container that we had not planned to put it in… a container that we definitely don’t want contaminated with the very substance that we all, figuratively, wallow in daily. We like it to stay in our gas tanks where it belongs and we want it to have processed itself through some handy refinery before it makes its way to us.
This is just unseemly! This is most uncouth and someone has to be held accountable. And so we yell a lot. We also wring our hands and worry about helplessly watching that runaway goo inevitably follow the Gulf Stream all the way around the pristine white bowl, making all sand and sea in its inexorable path uninhabitable. We already recoil from the inevitable worst case scenario that our wonderfully imaginative minds may now cough up:
That our beautiful Gulf of Mexico will soon resemble a gigantic toilet bowl.
Is this the pretty pass we addicts have suddenly come to? How can we halt the enormous flushing which we now watch with such dreadful horror? Will this wake us up to our dependent condition?
We must now ask ourselves the inevitable question:
HAS PLANET EARTH BEGUN TO FIGHT BACK?